Internship is such an amazing part of learning to be a teacher. Here in Saskatchewan, at either University, you are given the opportunity during your education to do a 4 month internship placement in a classroom.
I have had interns in the past before I did my Teaching Hiatus (a.k.a.: staying home to raise my kids) and now, in my third year back at it, I have an intern again.
I am going to try to make a list of things that I think are important for my Intern to know. Here, in no particular order, are my thoughts:
1. Questioning is important. So important. If you ask a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, please be ready to follow up with something to make those kids think more deeply. Be ready to ask them “Why do you think. . . ?” or “How do you know. . . ?” or “Can you connect it to. . . ?” You never know where those conversations are going to lead!
2. Don’t do for the kids what they can do for themselves. They are smart. They are going to try to get out of some things. Make them accountable and keep them accountable. Encourage them to TRY. Help them up when they are not successful. But help them feel the joy of independence and persistence. It’s not always easy, but it’s usually best. Articulate to the parents that that’s your plan because it’s important to have them as partners in your students’ educations.
3. Be yourself. The kids are genuinely curious about you and who you are. Sometimes, be bigger than yourself. Be surprising. It’s the unexpected that keeps them guessing!
4. Teach Like a Pirate. I wish I could take credit for this little phrase, but it’s the awesome work of Dave Burgess and the title of his book. It’s also a fantastic group of educators who are so ridiculously passionate about their work that the creativity and dedication is mind-blowing. Google it. Or check out Twitter on Monday evenings and search for the hashtag #tlap. It’s the coolest thing ever. You can find my review of the book, here. I bought the t-shirt. And the hoodie. Enough said.
5. Earn your Oscar. Some days you are going to be less than enthusiastic about your content. Or you’ve been up several time during the nights and you are exhausted. Or you’ve just had a lousy day and aren’t feelin’ the vibe to be awesome.
Some days, we fake it ’til we make it. Find a content delivery that you love. Encourage other experts to help. Draw from the interests of the students and take a short side-trip down a tangent. Give yourself a short time-out, leaving the kids with something productive to work on. It doesn’t have to be a full-on Hollywood production every day, but your students are going to remember the crazy, awesome stuff. Do it as often as you can.
6. Ask questions. I don’t know everything, but if you want, I can try to help you find the answer or I can find someone who maybe knows the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know something. Keep an “I Wonder” journal. You’ll use it someday.
7. Bring your A-Game. Show me what you can do. As my imaginary colleague, Ms Frizzle, would say, “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.” I’ve got your back. Now is your time to try new things (well, really, you’re going to do that your whole career!).
8. You’re going to have crappy lessons. You’re going to feel like a flop some lessons/days. Guess what? That happens to everyone. Reflect on it. Dissect it to see what you may have done differently. When you know better, do better. And then, let it go.
9. Have fun. For goodness sake, HAVE FUN. Laugh. Laugh at things that happen because they are supposed to and the things that you have no control over that catch you off guard. Laugh at yourself.
10. Reflect on everything. How did your lesson go? That interaction with a student? Your day? Write things down. You think you’ll remember it all but I’ll tell you this – I don’t remember exactly how I did things last year, so remembering ALL THE THINGS is probably not realistic.
There are a million other pieces of advice and support, but I think this might be a good start. We’re going to talk a lot. I hope I remember to tell you as many things I can that can help you out. We’re at the beginning of this adventure and I can’t wait to see what you can do and to learn from you. Because I truly believe that Internship is not a one-way transfer of knowledge and feedback.
Let’s do this. Let’s give these kids an amazing 4 months. And I hope at the end of the 4 months that you have had an amazing time, too.